Mastering preparation and delivery

(© Jeffrey de Gans v12, 25 November 2020)

This page is here to help you make the right decisions when delivering your mixes for mastering. It contains some practical tips and tricks to make things just a little bit easier for the both of us.

File Format

I prefer 24bit or 32bit float files, though 16bit is also acceptable if that's all you have. Print/bounce/render your project in the sample-rate you worked in. If necessary, I will take care of the Sample Rate Conversion (SRC). Files should be mixed down stereo WAV or AIF.

 

MP3’s or other lossy formats are NOT suitable for mastering. Also saving an mp3 as a WAV file doesn’t make it a high resolution file again.

File names

Please make filenames as short as possible without becoming confusing. The most desirable filename is simply the song number, title and mixversion (if applicable).

This is not a proper way to name your files.

Bounce FINAL MIX.wav
Bounce FINAL FINAL mix.wav
Bounce FINAL FINAL mix (really).wav
Untitled Bounce FINAL Mix (please use this version).wav
Untitled Bounce FINAL Mix (please use this FINALversion).wav

What I also sometines see is this, the mix in 3 different revisions:

Bounce.wav
Bounce.wav
Bounce.wav

Correct filenames could look something like this:

01 a great song v1.2.wav
01 a great song v1.3.wav
01 a great song v2.0.wav
02 another brilliant song v1.1.wav
02 another brilliant song v2.1.wav

In case of an (CD) album with ISRC codes, CD text, UPC/barcode etc, please use this excell sheet to give me all the information I need. If you want more information on ISRC and UPC/EAN codes please click here.

Levels

Your mixes should have a decent level without reaching or exceeding 0 dBfs (digital clipping). Digital clipping can NOT be undone during mastering.

Don’t be afraid to print your mixes ‘not loud enough’, in the digital world there is plenty of headroom and it doesn’t really matter whether the highest peak is at -1 or -50 dBfs . Please forget  the -6dB rule, it’s a hoax , just make sure the levels stay below 0dBFS. I will take care of the final loudness.

This is what a clipped/limited file looks like. NOT suitable for mastering.

Max peak is at -6dB, it is still limited/clipped and so NOT suitable for mastering.

This is what a proper level mix looks like, no clipping and enough headroom.

Master/Mix bus processing

When it comes to some master buss compression, tape/tube sound or EQ that adds something to the sound, that will be fine. On the other hand, limiting/clipping on the masterbus is not fine and it will be really hard or even impossible to make a decent master.

A general rule for processing on the master bus is: if you use it to make things louder, remove it!

If you really like the way the processing sounds on the master bus, I suggest you send those mixdowns together with the un-processed files. They can sometimes be a useful pointer as to your sound preferences.

Starts and ends of your music

It’s best to print/bounce with some silence (like one empty bar) in front and at the end of the track. That’s a lot better then missing the first attack of the downbeat or that really important reverb-tail at the end. Proper starts and ends will be taken care of during mastering.

Dithering

Don’t use dither or up/down-sample your audio. Dithering should be done only once and will be taken care of during mastering in the correct way.

 

Quality Check

After you printed your mixdown with the tips I just gave you, it’s time to double check before actually sending it to me! Do this check by actually LISTENING to the complete mixdown from start to endpreferably on a decent set of headphones. Check for mix/edit mistakes, muted stems, glitches, noise, distortion and everything else. It won’t be the first time that there are ‚hickups‘ or other issues you discover after doing the final mixdown. If you are 100% sure that everything is OK it’s time to send. But before doing so, make sure you listen to it again.. cool

Don’t just print your mix and consider it done!
Realtime is not always the same as offline..

Keep in mind that YOU are the only one responsible for problems in the mixes you send. If you found a mistake in your mixdown after the initial mastering I will have to charge you for that.

The short version of this information

Mixed down stereo Wav or AIF files in 24bit or higher. No mp3 or other lossy format.

Make filenames as short as possible without becoming confusing. 01 Yellow sugar v2.3.wav

Your mixes should have a decent level without exceeding 0 dBfs (no digital clipping)

Don’t use limiters on your master-bus. If you used it to make things louder, remove it!

Make sure your starts and ends are OK, so no missing attack or reverbtail

Quality check before sending, always listen back to the complete track from beginning till end!

 

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Approved Apple Digital Masters provider

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